Thoughts on stupid things politicians say about climate change

Politicians shouldn't be allowed around questions of science. This stuff is too serious to leave in the hands of people beholden to high-roller donors.
REUTERS/Euzivaldo Queiroz
Politicians shouldn’t be allowed around questions of science. This stuff is too serious to leave in the hands of people beholden to high-roller donors.

I once watched a man try to defend himself in court. He wasn’t a lawyer. In fact, he wasn’t very bright at all — which explains why he thought it was a good idea to represent himself. Cornell University conducted a research project last year and found that some people are so stupid they don’t even know they are stupid. The judge was forced to talk to the defendant like the man was a 6th grader. Reporters found it entertaining in a tragi-comic sort of way.

I was reminded of this episode as I watched a 10 minute video of a congressional hearing from November last year. It was the Science and Technology Committee hearing on global warming. One of the chief witnesses was Dr. Richard Alley, the Evan Pugh Professor of Geosciences at Penn State, and leading paleo-climate scientist in the world. He thinks, based on his research of ice-core data, among other things, that human-caused global warming is real.

Representing himself, the United States and the people of the 46th district of California was Dana Rohrabacher. He is a politician and has never studied ice-core data. Nevertheless, he thinks human-caused global warming is a joke.

It was Rohrabacher who brought to mind that guy who thought he was smart enough to tangle with a trained prosecutor. The defendant had watched a lot of Perry Mason, and that gave him certainty. I recognized that Rep. Rohrabacher had read a bunch of material from fossil-fuel funded think tanks. As they say, he was bringing a knife to a gunfight.

Thus armed, the congressman puffed himself up and used some scientific sounding words. He fools no one. He has no idea what he’s talking about. You can see the video by clicking here.

Rohrabacher begins by asking Dr. Alley if all this warming we are seeing isn’t explainable as a natural cycle, pointing out to the man who knows more about the earth’s natural climate cycles than anyone else on the planet that the earth has gone through many natural climate cycles. I know Dr. Alley was grateful for the tutorial.

Stupid question
Rohrabacher’s question, pompous and officious, insults the intelligence. There is a principle in science called “Occam’s Razor.” I’ll spare you the details on how it got its name, but it means that the simplest explanation for a problem is often the right explanation. Therefore, all scientists, when undertaking a problem, look at the simplest solution first.

That means, in the case of global warming, one would look at natural cycles. So, that’s what Dr. Alley and hundreds of other scientists did. No natural cycle can explain what’s happening to our climate today. Not the sun. Not volcanoes. Not the eccentricities of Earth’s orbit.

In effect, Rohrabacher was asking the homicide detective whether he ever considered the killer might have been the victim’s spouse. The detective would have said, “Yes we did, and the spouse was in another country.” What the detective was thinking was: “Look you numbskull, the spouse if the first person we always look at!”

Dr. Alley didn’t call Rep. Rohrabacher a numbskull. He did something far more delicious. In front of the rest of the committee members and anyone watching CSPAN, this delightful little scientist gave the congressman a lesson in Earth orbit, wobble and tilt. Except it was a lesson designed for a child. He explained why there are natural cycles. He did it all with his hands and face, pointing to his bald spot as one of Earth’s poles. It seemed, at one point, Dr. Alley was about to do the itsy-bitsy spider for the congressman.

I’ve watched the video of the hearing a dozen times. Initially I found it charming and funny, and now when I watch it I feel frustration and anger. Rohrabacher is charged with making public policy to deal with what has been called the greatest crisis ever to face mankind, and he hasn’t a clue about the science. His political beliefs can’t square with the science, so he must make the established science wrong, and it is clear that the congressman wouldn’t be able to tell a molecule from a mattress.

A Minnesota state senator told me that he would give global warming serious attention when the science gets to 50-50. Several separate studies now show more than 97 percent of all published scientists working on global warming agree that increased CO2 from fossil fuels is the primary cause. I told him that the U.S. Department of Defense believes the science, the CIA believes it, and both are already gaming the next set of world conflicts based on the effects of global warming.

I asked the senator if 100 mechanics inspected the airplane he and his family intended to fly to New York and 97 of them said the plane would crash, would he put his family on the plane? His answer was silence. Last check, he still thinks global warming is a farce. Ready for takeoff.

Too serious
I don’t know any other way of saying this, but politicians shouldn’t be allowed around questions of science. This stuff is too serious to leave in the hands of people beholden to high-roller donors who are worried they will lose profits if the government acts decisively on established science.

An Australian physicist named John Cook runs a website called, and he’s put together some embarrassingly uninformed quotes on global warming science he’s collected from U.S. politicians. Right now he has 30 public officials featured; four of them are from Minnesota, and one is a democrat. You can see the quotes here.

There is no question that lawmakers have a vital role to play in developing public policy grounded in fact and wisdom. But the laws of physics stand immutable against the weaker laws of politics. I can’t help but believe that the country is filled with politicians who would vote to repeal the laws of gravity, if gravity was an impediment to favored campaign contributors. “Well, sir — if gravity is getting in the way of you making a lot of money, and giving me some of it, why, we’ll just outlaw it.”

Back to the guy who thought he was smart enough to act as his own lawyer. He was found guilty on all charges. He apologized to the judge for the fiasco and said, “I guess I’m not as smart as I thought I was.” Politicians never have to make that admission to the scientists they call to testify. The scientists, unfortunately, have to assume that’s going in.

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Comments (30)

  1. Submitted by Greg Kapphahn on 05/17/2011 - 08:34 am.

    I’m coining a new word for today’s “conservatives” (and some fringe “liberals,” too):

    Dysfon — A dysfon is a person of normal or better intelligence who thinks and/or behaves in moronic ways as the result of their psychological dysfunctions.

    Far too many politicians are dysfons (as are their most ardent supporters):

    When you’ve had the ability to experience or express compassion, together with the ability to trust those who do not agree with you on absolutely every issue, beaten (literally or figuratively) out of you by your family, friends, community and clergy,…

    NONE of the things that healthier people find satisfying, NONE of the things that make life seem worthwhile are available to you.

    As the result of those limitations, only the possession of large amounts of MONEY holds out any hope of getting what you need in life without offering those around you the compassion, empathy, trust and forgiveness required for normal, healthy, mutually rewarding relationships.

    Thus do our “conservative” friends and neighbors come to worship the idea of wealth and those who appear to possess wealth to the exclusion of all other considerations.

    “When you’re rich, [they convince themselves] you really know.”

    These politicians are not, therefore, lacking in intelligence. Neither are most of their supporters. They are DYSFONS.

  2. Submitted by Jeff Michaels on 05/17/2011 - 08:39 am.

    Ten years ago, I asked a Minneapolis engineer, who specialized in heating, ventilation and air conditioning, his take on the validity of the global warming controversy. His response was that if clients were willing to pay for equipment to accommodate the possibility of global warming, engineers could do it.

    In view of that answer, my take is that if you ask scientists today about the validity of global warming, excuse me climate change, 97 percent would say if someone is willing to provide grant and research money to study the issue, then climate change (nee global warming) certainly does exist.

    After all, the same types of people, if not the same people, were telling us in the 1970s that we were headed for an Ice Age. Of course, after last week’s 40 degree weather in the middle of May, THEY may have been right.

  3. Submitted by Bruce Marshall on 05/17/2011 - 08:53 am.

    Wonderful piece! I sent it around to friends with the subject title: Recognizing one’s ignorance is the first step toward wisdom—and the corollary for foolishness

  4. Submitted by Bruce Johnson on 05/17/2011 - 10:00 am.

    Letter writer #2 demonstrates the problem with stupidity around this subject: it’s possible to say or write words, including words like engineer or scientist, about this topic that advances the pretense that there isn’t a scientific consensus. A massive amount of the public discourse on climate change is of this sort. I commend Mr. Shelby for his use of the “s” word here, as it is essential to call things by their real name.

  5. Submitted by Jeff Klein on 05/17/2011 - 10:17 am.

    Excellent work by Mr. Shelby.

    #2 Let’s all understand a couple of basic things:

    – basically all ‘hard’ scientists could easily have gotten a much higher paying job in another field if they had no ethics or intellectual curiosity. We lose physicists to finance all the time. The ones who stay do it because they WANT TO, not because they find some perverse joy in writing grant proposals to do fake studies to receive a pittance of the money they’d make doing anything else. This simply doesn’t make any sense.

    – science is an OPEN system of inquiry, and there is a huge carrot in coming up with a new theory to explain evidence that’s different than the prevailing ones and is ultimately more compelling. If it was all some kind of game to embezzle grant money, it would mean all climate scientists in the world would have to work in more or less perfect collusion – a world-wide conspiracy of dorks. Let’s just say that one doesn’t pass Occam’s Razor.

    Those who think they’re so clever proposing such a thing are only exposing their ignorance. Makes you wish we did a better job teaching science in schools.

  6. Submitted by Steve Rose on 05/17/2011 - 10:39 am.

    That is a wicked-smart guy that can look at ice cores, and not only read the natural history, but assign the blame, and do so with unchallengeable certainty.

    If as this Don column and the commenters claim, this is “established science” and there is “scientific concensus”, why are we still talking about this?

    Could it be because the sea levels have barely risen in the last five years (less than 1/2-inch)? Not to despair, because the NASA-funded University of Colorado Sea Level Research Group is adding 0.3 millimeters per year to its Global Mean Sea Level Time Series. That is not a measurement; they have decide to add it because they claim glacial melt is removing weight that had been pressing down on land masses, which in turn allows land masses to rise.

    Perhaps Al Gore was right that NY will be submerged; the University of Colorado will report that Manhattan is submerged beneath 20 feet of virtual water.

    The best part about this discussion is the invoking of the word “stupid”. It is a puzzling strategy. Is calling a stupid person stupid or calling a non-stupid person stupid ever been effective for convincing someone to share your opinion?

  7. Submitted by Howard Salute on 05/17/2011 - 10:43 am.

    Shelby says…”but politicians shouldn’t be allowed around questions of science. This stuff is too serious to leave in the hands of people beholden to high-roller donors…”

    I agree Don…but if we follow your thinking, what stuff isn’t too serious to leave in the hands of politicians?

  8. Submitted by Scott Lincoln on 05/17/2011 - 11:06 am.


    Coming from a masters-degreed environmental scientist, thanks for the wonderfully refreshing article. One of the best I’ve seen in recent times. Unfortunately, you’ve opened the can of worms that will get the internet trollers (and near robotic skeptic/denial-machine) out in full force.

    We can only hope that people will eventually see what is happening without models, physics, equations, and scientists to understand them… but by then it may be too late to take care of the problem in an inexpensive, painless way.

  9. Submitted by Scott Lincoln on 05/17/2011 - 11:09 am.

    #2: There is far more money to be made by promoting delay and inaction. Not even tiny amounts more… massive amounts more. I can guarantee you as someone from the academic/science field that money is not free-flowing for people wishing to study any particular part of science. Your metaphor is silly and without merit.

  10. Submitted by Scott Lincoln on 05/17/2011 - 11:12 am.

    “Could it be because the sea levels have barely risen in the last five years (less than 1/2-inch)?”

    5 years isn’t even enough to establish anything climate related, let alone show a change in climate. That statistic, even if accurate, is irrelevant.

    “NASA-funded University of Colorado Sea Level Research Group is adding 0.3 millimeters per year to its Global Mean Sea Level Time Series. That is not a measurement; they have decide to add it because they claim glacial melt is removing weight that had been pressing down on land masses, which in turn allows land masses to rise.”

    It’s called glacial rebound. It’s not new, it’s been around and understood for years. Your attempt to establish imaginary fraud is irrelevant and ignorant.

    “Perhaps Al Gore was right…”

    Al Gore derangement/fixation syndrome continues.

  11. Submitted by Rich Crose on 05/17/2011 - 11:40 am.

    Someone once said, “When you jump off a hundred story building, the first 99 floors feel like you’re flying.” When it comes to global warming, we just passed the 50th floor and are picking up speed.

    When Miami, Houston and New York City are under water, they will quit denying we have a problem but then it will be too late.

    Giant six-legged carbon dioxide breathing frogs will be running for congress against these idiots.

  12. Submitted by Susan Rego on 05/17/2011 - 12:03 pm.

    On Earth Day 2009, U.S. Sen. Joe Barton (R-Texas) as Ranking Member of the Energy & Commerce Committee, asked Dr. Steven Chu, Secretary of Energy, how all that oil got under Alaska and the Arctic Ocean, because oil is created where the climate is warm.

    With a chuckle, Secretary Chu, a Nobel Prize winning scientist, answered, “This is a complicated story, but oil and gas is the result of hundreds of millions of years of geology and in that time also the plates have moved around. And so, it’s a combination of where the sources of the oil and gas -”

    Rep. Barton interrupted and asked, facetiously, I hope, “It wasn’t a big pipeline that we’ve created in Texas and shipped it up there and put it under ground so we can now pump it up and ship it back to Texas?”

    “No,” replied the Secretary carefully, “There are continental plates that have been drifting around throughout the geological ages.”

    “So it just drifted up there,” said Sen. Barton, with a smirk.

    He later bragged that his question had “baffled” the secretary.

  13. Submitted by Dan Hintz on 05/17/2011 - 12:05 pm.

    Sometimes its being stupid, and sometimes its being dishonest (and sometimes both).

    Jeff Michaels (#2), who gets his climate change information from an air conditioning expert, says: “After all, the same types of people, if not the same people, were telling us in the 1970s that we were headed for an Ice Age.”

    That is, of course, an outright lie that gets repeated over and over again. What happened in the 1970s was that a couple of popular magazines published articles about “global cooling.” Although some of the “same types of people” were looking at global warming in the 1970s, there was no scientific consensus at the time, and there certainly wasn’t any scientific consensus around the idea of global cooling.

    Steve Rose (#6) doesn’t like the use of the term “stupid” so based on the misrepresentations he makes in his comment, I would suggest “dishonest” for him instead.

  14. Submitted by RB Holbrook on 05/17/2011 - 12:08 pm.

    “If as this Don column and the commenters claim, this is “established science” and there is “scientific concensus”, why are we still talking about this?”

    Perhaps because too many people have vested interests in convincing the public that everything is ok and there will be no environmental consequences to our current consumption habits..

    This is also how people can hold up one small bit of fact that does not go perfectly with the narrative and think that is “proof” of anything.

  15. Submitted by John Edwards on 05/17/2011 - 12:25 pm.

    Don is a solid TV news reader but his writing is unpersuasive. Mr. Michaels has by far the most incisive comment here. Science is not consensus. A major clue in this issue is that remedies for “global warming” largely coincide with a liberal agenda (cars and corporations must stop polluting; more money should go to poorer nations to fight the problem). Such was also the case in the mid 1970s when Don’s scientists were predicting a nuclear winter unless we banned bombs. Or when Professor Paul Erlich warned of mass starvation due to overpopulation. Once a person understands that the right invokes the specter of dire Scripture-based consequences to control society’s moral behavior while the left predicts natural calamity if people don’t follow its economic imperatives, the ulterior motives become obvious to the astute.

  16. Submitted by Ray Marshall on 05/17/2011 - 01:03 pm.

    Should television personalities be considered qualified to judge scientists when they make predictions.

    Paul Ehrlich had lots of support in the 60s for his prediction that we would all die of starvation by 2,000.

    Atomic theory once taught that protons,neutrons and electrons were all their was to an atom.

    String theory is starting to find skeptics; Dark Matter, never heard of 20 years ago, is now the big search item for astrophysicists.

    Who knows what the future will bring? The only correct answer is “change.”

    What can we do about massive global climate change? Most likely not much.

    I’m more worried about the Rapture on Saturday ?

  17. Submitted by Bernice Vetsch on 05/17/2011 - 01:04 pm.

    Steve R. (#6) asks why are we still talking about this if there is scientific concensus.

    It’s because the oil, gas and coal industries have spent millions — or more like billions — on propaganda designed to make people believe either that there is no such thing as global warming OR that there is but human actions have nothing to do with it.

    Their other propaganda tries to convince people that coal is clean, that fracking and the extraction of oil from shale (as in Alberta) causes no environmental damage, and that nuclear is safe despite the evidence from Japan proving that siting reactors on faults or shipping used fuel thousands of miles by truck or train to be reprocessed holds no danger.

  18. Submitted by Jerilyn Jackson on 05/17/2011 - 01:27 pm.

    It’s astounding when non-scientists (#6-case in point) expect to be taken seriously as they spout scientific facts and use them to dispute the arguments of scientific experts. By what motivation would these experts make this stuff up? Last I heard, science education is being pushed due to a lack of people entering scientific fields, so I don’t buy that they have to fudge their evidence to keep their jobs.
    Some deniers insist that the percentage of scientists who don’t support climate change is much higher because they include the entire scientific community i.e. geologists, meteorologists, etc. The fact is that the more expertise a scientist has specifically about climate science, the more certainty there is about climate change and man’s role in affecting it (over 97%).
    I like the airplane analogy in the article. I use another analogy about a patient who has symptoms which 97 out of 100 brain specialists say are indicative of a brain tumor. Would you act on their recommendation of immediate surgery, or insist that because your dermatologist has doubts, surgery shouldn’t be performed.

  19. Submitted by Steve Rose on 05/17/2011 - 01:47 pm.

    There is so much to say, but nothing to talk about. It is all settled science.

    Scott (#10):

    “5 years isn’t even enough to establish anything climate related, let alone show a change in climate. That statistic, even if accurate, is irrelevant.”

    Imagine if we had just completed five years of warm winters. That would considered proof positive, and chicken little would claim that the sky is falling.

    Today (May 17), I am looking out my office window in Minneapolis, and I see a persistent glacier across the street. It is a slightly smaller than yesterday. We had a pool in our office, choosing dates for its demise. Sadly, no winner this year, as no one picked a date this late on the calendar. But never-mind that, anecdotal evidence is often employed in warm-mongering, but cannot be used against it.

    How long has this story been in the can? It is hard to sell climate fear in April, when we are still suffering accumulating snowfalls.

    Dan (#12):

    You are too kind. I have no motive be dishonest; I must be one of the stupid.

    I am questioning; I am not dogmatically adhering to an ideology. It is clear that global warming is a religion, and I am a heretic. How dare I question the holy word!

    P.S.: How is that photo related to the story? Rising sea levels?

  20. Submitted by Dan Hintz on 05/17/2011 - 02:02 pm.

    John Edwards (#15): I think you made Don’s point by calling Jeff Michaels inane comment “the most incisive comment here.”

    You do understand that because a scientist or a group of scientists believe something that it doesn’t mean there is a scientific consensus, right? The fact that one scientist believed in nearer-term dire consequences from overpopulation doesn’t mean that all or most of them did. Similarly, the fact that Newsweek wrote an article about “global cooling” doesn’t mean that there was a scientific consensus. You can’t rebut what is truly a scientific consensus in the case of climate change by pointing to examples of individual scientists later proved wrong.

    I see that you use the word “astute” to describe yourself and others who share your understanding of science. In the words of Inigo Montoya, “I do not think it means what you think it means.”

  21. Submitted by Dan Hintz on 05/17/2011 - 03:25 pm.

    Steve, I don’t know if you are dishonest or stupid or both. What I do know is that you aren’t “questioning” anything. What you are doing is demonstrating your scientific illiteracy.

  22. Submitted by Greg Kapphahn on 05/17/2011 - 03:44 pm.

    To, in effect, put your hands over your eyes, plug your ears, and make arguments which amount to loudly saying “lah, lah, lah” for no other purpose but to maintain the denial that keeps you feeling safe…

    in the face of overwhelming evidence that global climate change is already occurring and is likely to get worse,…

    probably in a sudden burst of seriously distressing, even deadly changes when we reach a certain (unpredictable) tipping point,…

    is to prove yourself to be a dysfon.

    For all you deniers out there. Your dysfunctions are forcing you to act and think as if you were morons.

    You’re not. Perhaps you’ll want to discover how to recover.

  23. Submitted by Mike Naas on 05/17/2011 - 08:34 pm.

    In science, skepticism is the rule, until proof is irrefutable. Don Shelby’s 1-sided article does not represent the science community. There are plenty of factors that are not represented in ice records, and are frequently not included in data calculations of reasons for climate cycles trying to convince people with a false simplistic view that only man-made gases are responsible. This view is categorically false. Below are two sources for factors not included in this article and many other politically charged articles, like Don’s article. Other factors include, energy from our Sun, and the wobble of the earth’s axis is theorized to cause cooling and warming cycles. There are many factors, but consider the following major non-human causes.

    Water vapor constitutes Earth’s most significant greenhouse gas, accounting for about 95% of Earth’s greenhouse effect (5). Interestingly, many “facts and figures’ regarding global warming completely ignore the powerful effects of water vapor in the greenhouse system, carelessly (perhaps, deliberately) overstating human impacts as much as 20-fold. Water vapor is 99.999% of natural origin. Other atmospheric greenhouse gases, carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O), and miscellaneous other gases (CFC’s, etc.), are also mostly of natural origin (except for the latter, which is mostly anthropogenic). Human activites contribute slightly to greenhouse gas concentrations through farming, manufacturing, power generation, and transportation. However, these emissions are so dwarfed in comparison to emissions from natural sources we can do nothing about, that even the most costly efforts to limit human emissions would have a very small– perhaps undetectable– effect on global climate.

    Over 400 prominent scientists from more than two dozen countries recently voiced significant objections to major aspects of the so-called “consensus” on man-made global warming. These scientists, many of whom are current and former participants in the UN IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change), criticized the climate claims made by the UN IPCC and former Vice President Al Gore. The new report issued by the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee’s office of the GOP Ranking Member details the views of the scientists, the overwhelming majority of whom spoke out in 2007.

    I’m all for reducing and managing our greenhouse gas emissions, but think it’s a huge misguided mistake to create more taxes or government programs, or go back to hardscrabble living for science that is in question. Using Don’t airplane analogy, there was a time when air travel was only a theory. Over time, we proved it could be done and are doing it. But before we proved it, nobody planned to use air travel for any travel needs because it was still unproven. In fact, most scientists thought air travel could not be done. “Most Scientists” once thought the Earth was flat, and not round and that the Earth was the center of the universe. “Most Scientists” is not good enough in the past or now. Climate change caused primarily by man is still a theory, with scientists on both sides. It has not been yet proven. Maybe it will be proven in the future, or not.

    Don Shelby’s analogies are simplistic and laughable as if he’s writing to children. I can do the same thing. Here goes; “Hey kids … do you see that wind chime on the corner of the garage? They look and say yes. Well, that is a special wind chime and it keeps elephants away. Have you ever seen any elephants by the garage? They say no. See, it works! Hopefully, Don will skip the irrelevant, child-like and simplistic analogies in the future. Don seems to have a political agenda instead of presenting the science on both sides of the issue. This is called fair and balanced, and was considered to be good journalism long before Fox news existed. According to Don’s article, anyone that does not agree with his view or his carefully selected scientists is an idiot. Hmmm …. Interesting viewpoint. I have a science degree from our University, and I do not agree with Don’s assessment, or his attitude towards the subject. In science, skepticism is the rule, until proof is irrefutable.

  24. Submitted by Steve Rose on 05/17/2011 - 08:38 pm.

    Jerilyn (#18):

    Have we met? “It astounds me when” … MinnPost commenters make untrue statements regarding a commenter about which they clearly know nothing.

    What could be the motivation? Some climate scientists, for instance Phil Jones, are celebrities, and have achieved near-god status, as they stand poised to save the planet, if only we mere mortals will heed his warning, and follow his plan. I may be out on a limb, but I am going to go with POWER as a primary motivation.

    Multitude of others:

    Indeed, there is heavy traffic on the low road.

    In MinnPost comments, I offer no insults nor accept them.

    I am sensing little to no tolerance for the diversity of ideas. Questioning the status quo is dealt with harshly. Don’t question the catechism; drink the Kool-Aid. Questioning is not allowed; it is not even acknowledged.

    This behavior does not compel one to listen thoughtfully to an argument, rather it has a repellant effect. Also, characterizations that cast me as a moron, or that newly constructed word, which I can’t recall, only serve to encourage my comments, to validate the need for the ideas stated here as facts to be challenged.

    Thanks for the conversation.

  25. Submitted by Mark Matthews on 05/18/2011 - 12:12 am.

    Hi Jeff Michaels

    ”97 percent would say if someone is willing to provide grant and research money to study the issue, then climate change (nee global warming) certainly does exist.”

    Seriously Jeff??? If a scientist wants to go out and “prove” something for money, I reckon they might approach David Koch or Exxon and say that they will prove Global Warming is a hoax for cash. If they can (with supporting evidence, following the traditional peer-review process), I reckon that scientist will be the richest scientist ever.

    Oh wait… David Koch has already tried this, and got some rather bad news.

  26. Submitted by Jim Dawson on 05/18/2011 - 04:47 am.

    I find these discussions remarkable and sad. Years ago I worked with atmospheric scientists at the University of Minnesota. They understood the underlying science behind climate change, or global warming, and were concerned. Indeed, agricultural scientists and others were calculating global warming impacts into their results. I then spent a decade working with physicists, and they too were concerned about what humans were doing to the atmosphere. It came up not just in theoretical discussions about physical processes and interactions on the Earth, but in discussion about the future of nuclear power, wind energy, ect. The arguments weren’t about which was “better,” but about efficiencies and how much energy could be had from each system. They were science discussions.
    And now I work with an international group of scientists who look at the connections between energy, or lack of it, and poverty. They also look at food issues, including the future of fish populations as a source of food, and at raising livestock in Africa. Their job is to look at Earth’s complex systems and connect the dots. They run complex models, most of which have nothing directly to do with global warming. Virtually all of these scientists, young and old, male and female, American, Russian, European Union, South American, take global warming as a given. They couldn’t do their research without factoring it in, because it is occurring and must be accounted for to get accurate results. This has been the case for years.
    Few of these scientists — either the international ones, the physicists, or the UofM researchers, got money for global warming research.
    Climate change caused by human forcing of the atmosphere through the addition of gigatons of carbon dioxide is a given that scientists must account for in their work, no matter where the grant money comes from. Most of these people could care less about politics — conservative or liberal. They are just trying to solve scientific problems.
    On the rare occasion one of them stops and looks at the public debate over climate change, the result is usually something along the lines of Shelby’s word: Stupid.

  27. Submitted by Dale Hoogeveen on 05/18/2011 - 07:23 am.

    Fact: there is very close to consensus among scientists that global warming is not only a fact but that it is also human caused, not just among those who study climate, but among virtually all scientists. Dissenters are close to some small fraction of 1% and most of them have proven bias in their background.

    Fact: one of the historical facts behind identifying human cause is the natural cycle of global warming and cooling which cannot begin to account for the current conditions. The statement about impending ice ages comes from the glacial history that says the current interglacial should be beginning to cool off were we in “natural conditions”, since it is already starting to run abnormally long. According to past earth cycles this warm interlude has just about run its course, instead we are going dramatically the other way. The natural cycle argument against human causation is empty and bogus, actually contradicting itself if looked at closely.

    Fact: the real actor of global warming is the greenhouse gas factor which can only be a small change in the first place or there would be no survival at all. We live in a very tiny temperature range. What is happening is that radiation from the night side is being inhibited with the intitial results being a softening of absolute lows, which is exactly what is being seen. All kinds of hardiness zones are softening and all one has to do is look at the local gardens and orchards as they march into formerly harsher climates. Unstable seasonal behavior is not a contradiction either; it is a sign of an increasingly unbalanced climatic equilibrium.

    Fact: Human concentrations in cities produce mini-warming situations called heat sinks that are already known by everyone to raise the temperatures in cities by a number of degrees over the surrounding countryside. That by itself demonstrates absolutely that humans cause increasing temperatures that do not dissipate and do so when human populations are the most concentrated. With 7 billion humans and increasing the world wide population is already so concentrated that those heat sinks are overlapping each other all over the planet and spreading.

    All the facts are there and easily seen by anyone willing to look at it with an open mind which augments what is actually an almost unprecedented scientific consensus that humans are causing dramatic and eventually catastrophic global warming. Failing to address that problem is getting to be close to criminal, and can even in the best of lights can be considered no less than negligent.

  28. Submitted by Jim Halonen on 05/18/2011 - 10:37 am.

    A little common sense here: carbon dioxide makes up 0.038% of the atmospheric gases. Humans and their activity contibute 1/3 of that miniscule amount, the rest is natural. And we are supposed to believe we can make a difference? This is like, if I desire to slash my monthly electricity bill, I will unplug my electric pencil sharpener.

  29. Submitted by Dan Hintz on 05/18/2011 - 11:35 am.

    Jim, your “common sense” is a actually not common sense, but a demonstration of your lack of understanding of the issue.

    The fact that carbon dioxide makes up a miniscule percentage of the atmosphere is irrelevant. The issue of man-made climate change arises because slight changes in that small amount of carbon dioxide can have significant impacts on the climate.

    As to making a difference, when you throw in naturally occurring carbon dioxide, it seems as if we cannot make a difference. The problem with that is that we don’t want to eliminate the naturally occurring carbon dioxide. Life on earth would actually cease to exist without it. Our current climate is dependent on a certain level ov carbon dioxide in the atmophere. What we need to do, and hopefully can do, is slow down the amount of man-made carbon dioxide put into the atmosphere so that the climate does not change.

  30. Submitted by ed krikorian on 07/27/2011 - 06:34 am.

    I’m not trying to minimize the importance of the topic, but it is so ironic that ‘science’ developed the problem to begin with……. “Science for a better life” “Imagination at work” “The miracles of science” Slogans to make our lives better. Now it appears that science is trying to show us that maybe “their” advances have put us and the world we live in at risk.

    Agreeing or disagreeing that global warming / climate change is occurring is really not the issue. Mother earth will ultimately take care of herself…… It’ll be an expensive lesson to those who may at some point in their lives find they were wrong.

    The real problem is in developing a workable solution. The notion of having to hook up a team of horses to drive to town isn’t all that appealing. And for most, the elimination of mass production, mass transit, mass merchandising, and everything else we are accustomed to doesn’t seem all that attractive.

    I think the Socialist State of California is considering banning black cars. The powers to be reason that black cars require more energy to keep them cool. How absurd! Why do they really think that is important? It’s just more government trying to regulate rather than encouraging innovation.

    Our finest have developed a list of products from oil that’s staggering not only in the diverse use of the stuff, but in the brain power and determination required for success. If we put the same energy into solving the problem that we put into developing our industries, we’d be far ahead of the fear cycle that we’re in now.

    Where is Einstein and Edison now? Never mind we have Gore.

    Maybe there’s just too damn many people? May be that part of the cycle is food shortage and a massive die off?

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